Saturday, January 27, 2007

Ambassador promises U.S. will stay the course in Somalia

My good friend Bashir has drawn my attention to an extraordinarily straightforward interview with the U.S. ambassador to Kenya, Michael Ranneburger, carried recently by ShabelleNet from Mogadishu. According to the ambassador, U.S. policy toward Somalia consists of just three goals:

  1. Help the Somali people establish security;
  2. Help them establish stability, law, and order with peace; and,
  3. Help them get the humanitarian assistance they need.

Asked whether the U.S. will be involved militarily in Somalia (to take up the slack after the after the Ethiopians leave), our ambassador solemnly promised that "the United States is going to be involved for [a] very long time. This is not something where we are going in very quickly and will then leave. We are coming in to stay."

Was the U.S. was encouraging dialogue between the transitional government and the Islamic Courts? Amb. Ranneburger pointed out that, "of course the Islamic Courts no longer exists as an institution, but . . . any Somali who renounces violence and extremism and terrorism should have a role to play in the future of their country, and this will include individual members of the Islamic Courts if they are moderate people who as I say renounces violence, extremism and terrorism."

Does the U.S. have evidence that terrorists involved in the Nairobi embassy bombings were present in Somalia? The ambassador is emphatic:

There is no question about it. The evidence is clear and it is absolutely certain. At least three of the individuals responsible for the bombing of the US embassies in Nairobi and Daressalam in 1998 were taking refuge within Somalia. Those three people were Fazul, Napal, and al-Sudani. There is no doubt whatsoever about that. There is also no doubt whatsoever that the Islamic Courts knew they were there and this is something that the Somali people need to know. These three people are individuals are associated with al-Qaeda.

But more importantly, there were a large number of foreign fighters and foreign jihadists and other people associated with al-Qaeda, who were there active in support of the Islamic Courts. I can tell you with great certainty that the influence of al-Qaeda people was growing within the Islamic Courts and posed a major threat to the people of Somalia.

You can read a transcript of most of the interview at the ShabelleNet website.
Better yet, listen to the audio of the entire interview here.

Bashir's own comments:

Please note that the ambassador mentions terrorism, terrorists etc. but since the fall of the Islamic Courts it is rather obvious the previous UN/US reports of presence of Eritrean troops 2000 strong, several hundred foreign fighters, Al qaeda etc. have turned out to be false. In fact the few "foreigners" so far arrested in Somalia were Canadian-Somalis and some Tabliq (Islamic version of Jehovah Witness or Mormon in their traveling preaching style) . . . .

Also the ambassador is asking the classic question, "Have you stopped beating your wife?" of Sheikh Sharif, the Islamic courts, and specifically the Ayr subclan in demanding that they first renounce violence, terrorism etc. before they can be allowed to participate in the politics of the country i.e. they have to first announce that they have engaged in unacceptable violence and terrorism and that they will now stop that. If defending one's country from the invasion of a foreign foe is considered radical and extremism I wonder how many founding fathers and heroic Presidents will join the ranks of extremists?

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